Love should try to play Ryder Cup soon

By Jason SobelMay 28, 2012, 5:30 pm

Davis Love III doesn’t need any advice. The current United States Ryder Cup captain has admirably performed every aspect of his role to date, namely, umm … suggesting to potential team members that they play well and, err… investigating specific wardrobe patterns against particular colors and, uhh … ensuring that host venue Medinah Country Club appears befitting of such status.

Yes, so far Love has done everything in his control to help the American side claim honors back from the Europeans. Which doesn’t mean much since there’s so little a captain can do to control the outcome, especially this early in the game.

Now, though, things are about to get real.

It’s time for the captain to read the fine print. It’s time for him to find a loophole, some language in the Ryder Cup contract which grants absolute power to the home team and allows it to move up the proceedings by four months.

If not, he should petition the PGA of America and appeal to the European Tour. Whatever it takes to change the dates of the festivities from Sept. 28-30 to ASAP.

That’s right. Love’s bugs need to play this thing, like, tomorrow – if not sooner. Round up the private jets, collect the 12 best candidates and get 'em to Chicago. Call up European counterpart Jose Maria Olazabal and tell him it’s now or never – or as U.S. team member Rickie Fowler would tweet: “Go time!”

The way the U.S. players are playing, Love needs to strike while the irons – and especially the putters – are hot.

Check out what your fellow Americans have accomplished recently, and you’ll understand the need for speed when it comes to moving this thing up.

Fowler hasn’t finished outside of the top five in a month, with a results table that includes his first career PGA Tour victory at Quail Hollow. Jason Dufner has looked like the second coming of Ben Hogan – or least a young David Duval – in claiming his first two titles and nearly grabbing a third on Sunday. Zach Johnson was the beneficiary of Dufner’s luck running out, finally breaking through at Colonial after two runner-up finishes in his previous three starts. Matt Kuchar took The Players Championship in convincing fashion, turning his celebrated consistency into the biggest win of his career.

What does each member of this foursome have in common? If the Ryder Cup were being contested today, they would own four of the eight automatic roster spots.

It’s not as if the other guys are stone cold, either.

The remaining four spots would be filled by a Masters champion (Bubba Watson), another recent major winner (Keegan Bradley), the only other two-time titleholder this year (Hunter Mahan) and a recent World Golf Hall of Fame inductee (Phil Mickelson).

That’s a whole lotta talent for Love to love – and the well doesn’t exactly dry up after those top eight qualifiers.

The next eight on the current points list – Steve Stricker, Tiger Woods, Bill Haas, Brandt Snedeker, Ben Curtis, Johnson Wagner, Kyle Stanley and Mark Wilson – have each won a Tour event already in the year’s first five months, giving the captain plenty of ammo for his four wild-card selections.

All of which leads to one prevailing notion: The team will never be hotter than it is right now.

Granted, that only increases the U.S. chances by mere percentage points. As we’ve often witnessed over the years, the hotter team on paper hardly owns much of an advantage once the first balls are in the air at this biennial grindfest, but even the smallest advantage is still an advantage.

After all, it’s not as if the best Europeans have spent the season looking uncontrollably like 18-handicappers. Luke Donald is fresh off another major – if not “major” – victory at the Euro flagship event that once again elevated him to No. 1 in the world. Prior to missing his last two cuts, Rory McIlroy was looking like a world-beater in every sense of the term. And from Lee Westwood to Graeme McDowell to Paul Lawrie to Justin Rose, plenty of other potential team members are also rounding into form.

If you had to pick a favorite, though, right this very second, on paper, based on recent performance, the advantage – albeit a slight one – would go to the red, white and blue. Or lilac, should Love choose to follow previous captain Corey Pavin’s color scheme. Whatever the case, it’s an advantage which may not linger much longer, so Love needs to pounce when the time is right.

Forget that the stage isn’t ready, and the wardrobes haven’t been decided, and there will be scheduling conflicts and complete confusion for everybody who had the last week of September circled on a calendar.

Love may never own a greater advantage over his opponent than he does right now. Without finding a loophole to move up the competition by four months, that advantage may wither as time goes on.

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Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

Well, this is a one new one.

According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:

“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”

Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.

“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.

The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.

“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”

The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.

Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.

Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.

PGA Tour suspends Hensby for anti-doping violation

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 8:02 pm

Mark Hensby has been suspended for one year by the PGA Tour for violating the Tour’s anti-doping policy by failing to provide a sample after notification.

The Tour made the announcement Monday, reporting that Hensby will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

The statement reads:

The PGA Tour announced today that Mark Hensby has violated the Tour Anti-Doping Policy for failing to provide a drug testing sample after notification and has been suspended for a period of one year. He will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

Hensby, 46, won the John Deere Classic in 2004. He played the Web.com Tour this past year, playing just 14 events. He finished 142nd on the money list. He once ranked among the top 30 in the Official World Golf Ranking but ranks No. 1,623 today.

The Sunshine Tour recently suspended player Etienne Bond for one year for failing a drug test. Players previously suspended by the PGA Tour for violating the anti-doping policy include Scott Stallings and Doug Barron.

The PGA Tour implemented revisions to its anti-doping program with the start of the 2017-18 season. The revisions include blood testing and the supplementation of the Tour’s prohibited list to include all of the substances and methods on the World Anti-Doping Agency prohibited list. As part of this season’s revisions, the Tour announced it would also begin reporting suspensions due to recreational drug use.

The Tour said it would not issue further comment on Hensby's suspension.

Good time to hang up on viewer call-ins

By Randall MellDecember 11, 2017, 7:40 pm

Golf announced the most massive layoff in the industry’s history on Monday morning.

Armchair referees around the world were given their pink slips.

It’s a glorious jettisoning of unsolicited help.

Goodbye and good riddance.

The USGA and R&A’s announcement of a new set of protocols Monday will end the practice of viewer call-ins and emails in the reporting of rules infractions.

“What we have heard from players and committees is ‘Let’s leave the rules and administration of the event to the players and those responsible for running the tournament,’” said Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s senior director of rules and amateur status.

Amen.

The protocols, formed by a working group that included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and the PGA of America, also establish the use of rules officials to monitor the televised broadcasts of events.

Additionally, the protocols will eliminate the two-shot penalty when a player signs an incorrect scorecard because the player was unaware of a violation.



Yes, I can hear you folks saying armchair rules officials help make sure every meaningful infraction comes to light. I hear you saying they make the game better, more honest, by helping reduce the possibility somebody violates the rules to win.

But at what cost?

The chaos and mayhem armchair referees create can ruin the spirit of fair play every bit as much as an unreported violation. The chaos and mayhem armchair rules officials create can be as much a threat to fair play as the violations themselves.

The Rules of Golf are devised to protect the integrity of the game, but perfectly good rules can be undermined by the manner and timeliness of their enforcement.

We have seen the intervention of armchair referees go beyond the ruin of fair play in how a tournament should be conducted. We have seen it threaten the credibility of the game in the eyes of fans who can’t fathom the stupidity of a sport that cannot separate common-sense enforcement from absolute devotion to the letter of the law.

In other sports, video review’s timely use helps officials get it right. In golf, video review too often makes it feel like the sport is getting it wrong, because timeliness matters in the spirit of fair play, because the retroactive nature of some punishments are as egregious as the violations themselves.  

We saw that with Lexi Thompson at the ANA Inspiration this year.

Yes, she deserved a two-shot penalty for improperly marking her ball, but she didn’t deserve the two-shot penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard. She had no idea she was signing an incorrect scorecard.

We nearly saw the ruin of the U.S. Open at Oakmont last year, with Dustin Johnson’s victory clouded by the timing of a video review that left us all uncertain if the tournament was playing out under an incorrect scoreboard.

“What these protocols are put in place for, really, is to make sure there are measures to identify the facts as soon as possible, in real time, so if there is an issue to be dealt with, that it can be handled quickly and decisively,” Pagel said.

Amen again.

We have pounded the USGA for making the game more complicated and less enjoyable than it ought to be, for creating controversy where common sense should prevail, so let’s applaud executive director Mike Davis, as well as the R&A, for putting common sense in play.

Yes, this isn’t a perfect answer to handling rules violations.

There are trap doors in the protocols that we are bound to see the game stumble into, because the game is so complex, but this is more than a good faith effort to make the game better.

This is good governance.

And compared to the glacial pace of major rules change of the past, this is swift.

This is the USGA and R&A leading a charge.

We’re seeing that with the radical modernization of the Rules of Golf scheduled to take effect in 2019. We saw it with the release of Decision 34/3-10 three weeks after Thompson’s loss at the ANA, with the decision limiting video review to “reasonable judgment” and “naked eye” standards. We’re hearing it with Davis’ recent comments about the “horrible” impact distance is having on the game, leading us to wonder if the USGA is in some way gearing up to take on the golf ball.

Yes, the new video review protocols aren’t a panacea. Rules officials will still miss violations that should have been caught. There will be questions about level playing fields, about the fairness of stars getting more video review scrutiny than the rank and file. There will be questions about whether viewer complaints were relayed to rules officials.

Golf, they say, isn’t a game of perfect, and neither is rules enforcement, though these protocols make too much sense to be pilloried. They should be applauded. They should solve a lot more problems than they create.

Lexi 'applaud's USGA, R&A for rules change

By Randall MellDecember 11, 2017, 5:15 pm

Lexi Thompson’s pain may prove to be the rest of golf’s gain.

David Rickman, the R&A’s executive director of governance, acknowledged on Golf Channel’s "Morning Drive" Monday that the new protocols that will eliminate the use of TV viewer call-ins and emails to apply penalties was hastened by the controversy following Thompson’s four-shot penalty at the ANA Inspiration in early April. The new protocols also set up rules officials to monitor TV broadcasts beginning next year.

“Clearly, that case has been something of a focus point for us,” Rickman said.

Thompson reacted to the new protocols in an Instagram post.

“I applaud the USGA and the R&A for their willingness to revise the Rules of Golf to address certain unfortunate situations that have arisen several times in the game of golf,” Thompson wrote. “In my case, I am thankful no one else will have to deal with an outcome such as mine in the future.”

Thompson was penalized two shots for improperly returning her ball to its mark on a green during Saturday’s round after a viewer emailed LPGA officials during Sunday’s broadcast. She was penalized two more shots for signing an incorrect scorecard for her Saturday round. Thompson ultimately lost in a playoff to So Yeon Ryu.

The new protocols will also eliminate the additional two-shot penalty a player receives for failing to include a penalty when a player was unaware of the penalty.

Shortly after the ANA Inspiration, the USGA and R&A led the formation of a video review working group, which included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and PGA of America.

Also, just three weeks after Thompson was hit with the four-shot penalty, the USGA and R&A released a new Rules of Golf decision decision (34-3/10) limiting video evidence in two ways:

1. If an infraction can’t be seen with the naked eye, there’s no penalty, even if video shows otherwise.

2. If a tournament committee determines that a player does “all that can be reasonably expected to make an accurate estimation or measurement” in determining a line or position to play from or to spot a ball, then there will be no penalty even if video replay later shows that to be wrong.

While the USGA and R&A said the new decision wasn’t based on Thompson’s ANA incident, LPGA players immediately began calling it the “Lexi Rule.”